Heads call for inquiry into A-level fiasco

Click to follow
The Independent Online

After hundreds of pupils failed to get their A-level results on time yesterday, headteachers' leaders are demanding an investigation into what went wrong. By last night some students were still awaiting their grades and a handful had been told they might not receive them until Monday.

After hundreds of pupils failed to get their A-level results on time yesterday, headteachers' leaders are demanding an investigation into what went wrong. By last night some students were still awaiting their grades and a handful had been told they might not receive them until Monday.

Schools and colleges told The Independent they had been forced to tell pupils arriving at their gates that they had not received results in some subjects from the exam boards. For those hoping to study for a degree it meant a delay in confirming or trying to find a place. Headteachers now want the government's exams watchdog, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, to investigate.

At Westcliff High School for Boys, in Southend, Essex, 36 students were forced to sit in the corridors for hours as they waited for the results of their exam for economics A-level. Andrew Baker, the school's head, said yesterday: "We were desperate to get the results as soon as possible. There are youngsters here not knowing whether they've got their university places. It's outrageous."

The headteacher of Newport High School for Girls, in Telford and Wrekin, said students who had taken history were still waiting for the results yesterday afternoon. "It is an absolute scandal," Edwina Gleeson said. "The exam board can't give us a grades, they say, until maybe Monday. Luckily all these girls were high flyers and had taken four subjects and done very well. If they had been people whose university place hinged on their history results, then we would have had a problem. As it is, they're all frustrated wondering what's going on."

The problems were exacerbated because one of the computer companies which delivers results to schools had communication problems earlier in the week, which took two days to repair. John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, added: "It's deplorable. Part of it must be because of the difficulties exam boards had recruiting enough markers.

"It may be these are isolated problems but we should have an investigation because we want to avoid getting into the situation in Scotland last year (where many students were kept waiting or given the wrong marks). It's also time to have a review of the number of external examinations that we have in this country. This is now in danger of overloading the capacity of the exam boards to deliver."

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said it would be "deeply worrying" if the delays were widespread. "It puts those students at a severe disadvantage in the university application process," he added.

However, a spokeswoman for the EdExcel exam board, one of the boards complained about, said it had dealt with 3.6million scripts and that there were "only a few teething problems" which should be sorted out by today (Friday). She praised the efforts of the board's 15,000 markers to meet their deadlines.

The delays came after A level figures published yesterday showed a drop of 23,000 in the number of entries this year. Paul Sokoloff, convenor of the Joint Council for National Qualifications, said one of the reasons could be that exam boards had completed some results too late for inclusion in the figures.

The figures showed that the biggest drop was in English where entries were down 9,500 on the previous year.

Meanwhile, exam results from the country's leading state schools showed that church comprehensives were amongst the most successful.

For the first time ever, St Andrew's University in Scotland is not offering any places through the clearing system. The university, where Prince William is to study history of art, was besieged by applicants, many of them from the United States, after it was revealed he would be studying there. It had a 43% increase in applicants and sent out a message yesterday "regretting" it had no places to offer through clearing.

Comments